THE DRIVER of a truck involved in a frightening accident at Warrenheip last Monday has spoken out about the crash, as well as what needs to be done to further protect people working in the towing industry.
Ballarat man Jeff Clark, a tow truck driver, was travelling along the Western Highway when the crash occurred.
Mr Clark had his indicator on and was about to move into the turning lane to enter the BP service station when he was hit by a passing B-double truck on May 25.
The impact propelled the smaller truck he was travelling in towards the service station, where a man was filling up his own vehicle.
SEE FOOTAGE OF THE CRASH HERE.
Mr Clark hit a large pillar and lost consciousness. He was pulled from the truck by a good Samaritan, who put his own life at risk by doing so.
Mr Clark sustained a broken wrist, three broken ribs and is suspected to have torn ligaments in his leg as a result of the crash.
"It could have been a car or anyone driving into that servo at that time of the day. It just happened to be me," he said.
Despite the injuries, he still counts himself lucky. He - as well as all of the people who were in the area at the time - were fortunate.
Mr Clark is thankful he hit the pillar instead of crashing through the service station itself, where he could have injured any of the people inside.
The impact of the crash also caused fuel to leak from the bowser and all it would have taken was a small spark to cause a ferocious petrol-fuelled fire.
"Things could have been totally different but this time a lot of people were lucky. And I was probably one of the luckiest ones because I am still here to talk about it," he said.
Things could have been totally different but this time a lot of people were lucky..Jeff Clark
"A lot of people said to me I should get a Tattslotto ticket and I said 'I don't need any Tattslotto tickets... I've got no chance of winning because I've used up all my luck last Monday afternoon."
While he counts himself to be very lucky, Mr Clark believes more does need to be done to protect people working as tow truck drivers or roadside assistants.
While he was in his truck in his recent accident, he said people working in the industry faced danger at work on the roadside every single day.
While road rule 79A was introduced on July 1, 2017 and requires that drivers slow to 40km/h when passing a stationary or slow moving emergency or enforcement vehicle with flashing red, blue or magenta lights, it does not require a driver to slow for other people or vehicles with amber lights.
Mr Clark said it was purely up to the kindness of people who choose to slow down, as they were not protected by the recently introduced law.
In the two years he has worked in the industry, Mr Clark said people certainly did not slow down often enough.
Often people break down in less than ideal locations, such as on the windy Midland Highway, but as a tow truck operator he still has to clamber underneath a car before it can be pulled up onto the truck.
"It is a big issue and something really has got to be done about it," he said. "People don't slow down enough. Some people are very courteous but there are some who just don't care about the fact that people are stuck on the road and we are trying to help them out. They don't take into consideration the safety issues of it all."
Mr Clark urged people to slow down for anyone working on the side of the road.
"When there are flashing lights, it doesn't matter what colour flashing lights they are, they are flashing lights for a purpose. They are not for a Christmas tree, they are there for a purpose," he said. "We are out there to help people get safely home and we want to too."
It is an issue that RACV has spoken up about before. Senior Manager of Transport at RACV, Peter Kartsidimas, said that the rule was inconsistent and confusing for motorists.
"We'd like to see the rule modified so that it is simple, practical and safer for everyone," he said.
"It should also be expanded to include tow-truck operators, roadside assistance patrols and other roadside workers who are not in a position to plan their worksite location and implement the appropriate traffic management controls."
While road rule 79A does not stipulate drivers must slow for non-emergency vehicles, the government encourages all drivers to drive to the conditions and to always exercise caution when passing a vehicle or person on the roadside.
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A Department of Transport spokesperson said it was the responsibility of all drivers to drive safely and to adjust their speed according to the conditions.
As speed plays a large role in crashes involving pedestrians, the spokesperson said it was important for motorists to slow down when they see a person working on the side of the road.
"It's not worth putting someone's life at risk simply to save a few seconds."
The department said it regularly reviewed the effectiveness of road rules and would continue to assess how they can be further improved to increase road safety outcomes in the future.
The accident has affected Mr Clark's family, including son Matt, who works in the same industry. While he was involved in an accident at work last year, neither his own nor his dad's accident has led him to reassess if he wants to continue doing the job he loves.
But for his dad, a taxi driver of almost forty years before he started working as a tow truck driver, he needs to heal before even thinking about returning to work.
He is thankful for the outpouring of support and generosity since the accident, but is taking time to focus on healing.
"I need to get over my injuries now. Not just the physical injuries but mental too. I just need to give myself 100 per cent and then take life on again.Jeff Clark
"I need to get over my injuries now. Not just the physical injuries but mental too," he said. "I just need to give myself 100 per cent and then take life on again."
"At this stage I just want to get better and we can reassess the situation thereafter. I love the job and I love the people who are around me but I want to be around them a hell of a lot longer."
The incident is being investigated by Moorabool Highway Patrol, who are still making enquiries.
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